Let me introduce you to a theatre company that might not be familiar to you. It’s called Chance Theatre, and it’s located in Anaheim Hills, just off the 91 freeway, about 100 miles from San Diego. Its artistic director is a man named Oanh Nguyen, and you might recognize his name. He’s the man Louis Spisto hired to direct a “re-imagined” version of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show for the Old Globe. Mr. Nguyen left the show over “artistic differences.” Any little-known director who is brave enough to have artistic differences with Lou Spisto is worth checking out.
As it happens, Mr. Nguyen’s company is aptly named, as it encourages audiences to “take a chance” on theatre in a small venue carved out of a nondescript building in a light industry complex. Going to Chance may be a little like finding a very happening rave dance site tucked away somewhere.
In fact, Chance’s current attraction, the West Coast premiere of Triassic Parq – The Musical, feels a bit like a rave. It’s ear-splitting, eye-popping, and sometimes too hip for its own good. But it’s also loose-limbed, terrifically sung, and hypnotically entertaining.
To give you an idea of whether this show would appeal to you, let me give you a minor “spoiler.” You might guess from the title that the show takes off from the Jurassic Park film series, where dinosaurs escape from their theme-park existence and terrorize humans. Indeed, after a rousing rock ‘n roll opener, Morgan Freeman (o.k., a white actress pretending to be Morgan Freeman) comes out and begins to narrate the story in Mr. Freeman’s best documentary style. Only, he’s attacked and eaten by a female T-Rex, who not only suffers from indigestion but who, after doing so, also sprouts male genitalia.
Now, if you find a situation like this one to be hilarious, you’re really going to like this show. If you found it to be intriguing enough to stick around and see what the rest of the show is like, you’re probably going to be glad you did. If you found it to be singularly unfunny or have no idea why Morgan Freeman might turn up narrating a documentary on dinosaurs and the meaning of life, you’re probably best coming back later in the season for a performance of Time Stands Still – or better yet, The Secret Garden – The Musical.
Yes, Triassic Parq tells its story from the singing-and-dancing (to swell choreography, by Kelly Todd) dinosaurs’ point of view. It’s a silly premise and it gets sillier. It seems that all of the dinos are female, even the ones played by male actors, and when male genitalia begin to appear on some of them it is always the ones played by women who get the curse (yes, I know…). The book (by Marshall Pailet, Bryce Norbitz and Steve Wargo) also tangles with “big issues” such as faith vs. science, what role evolution plays in everyday life, and how to find answers to life’s persistent questions.
Unfortunately, the show does not tackle the burning question of why eating Morgan Freeman would give a T-Rex indigestion – or cause crotch bulges where none used to exist. [php snippet=1]
The saving grace in this mess is the cast and creative team’s absolute commitment to it. Mr. Pailet’s songs may be forgettable but not in this group’s hands. Particularly strong are Keaton Williams as the Candide-like seeker of answers and Kellie Spill as the T-Rex whose indigestion may or may not be the start of that nasty flu that’s been going around.
The show runs 90 minutes with no intermission. It’s too bad that Chance doesn’t do midnight performances. Seeing this show with a midnight audience would definitely be worth the drive from San Diego.
Performances are Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3pm & 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm through February 24. Ticket prices range from $25 – $45; call the theatre or visit its website to purchase (see below for information). There is plentiful free parking at the theatre.